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Monday 11 December 2017

Royals plan on improving away form

BUOYED by an opening night win over Monaghan, Meath supporters nonetheless make the short spin to Mullingar with an acute sense of anxiety.

It’s a general rule of thumb that Meath always beat Westmeath when |it counts and with the Lake County losing to fellow relegation favourites Louth last week, the task hardly looks daunting for the Royals when viewed in a simple footballing equation.

Even less so when you take into account the fact that Pat Flanagan’s team are down their sizeable and influential Garrycastle brigade.

No, Westmeath aren’t what Meath fans fear. The Royal faithful are merely wary of their own rotten away form.

In fact, Meath’s league record outside Páirc Tailteann over the past four years is the worst of any team in the country across the four divisions outside of perennial whipping boys Kilkenny and London, and dismally reads: played 14, won 1, drawn 1, lost 12.

“Maybe we should be a bit more aware of it,” Meath forward Joe Sheridan (inset) said of the ‘record’. “Maybe we would start actually winning a few games then! But you try not to because if you focus on things like that you can get caught up in it and you bring more pressure on yourselves.”

Expanding the point, the Seneschalstown man is unsure whether there is a mitigating factor which has seen them take just three of the last 28 available points on the road.

“There is no single thing. Our home form – apart from last year – hasn’t been too bad. Travelling to away games shouldn’t matter. We have to just stop making excuses and be better away from home. Hopefully we can start it this weekend. If would be great if we got the win because we would have two from two then going into a bit of a break.”

Against that backdrop, it was vital Meath beat Monaghan last Saturday to avoid the scenario where they would have journeyed to Mullingar attempting to win on the road for the first time since they beat Wexford on March 15, 2008, and risked entering the league’s mini break facing a relegation scrap akin to last year.

Then, Meath were saved on relegation D-day by Kildare’s big victory over Antrim in Casement Park, despite slumping to defeat at home by Laois.

“We put ourselves under a bit of pressure to win the game, especially with it being Monaghan,” Sheridan admits.

“There was an extra edge to it with Seamus (McEnaney) involved. But it gave us a bit of confidence.

“I know last year were weren’t great in the league, we only won one game and this year, we want to be pushing on for a Division 2 title.”

Sheridan cautiously predicts a more consistent season from Meath this year after the initial teething |problems of McEnaney’s first season in charge, and the early signs of such a development are already visible.

Noting the addition of trainer Seán Cahill to Meath’s backroom team and the absence of the upheaval which beset the group last year when Barry Callaghan and Liam Harnan stepped down, Sheridan says the team are “finding ways of how to get better and how to get into the top four or five teams in the country”.

He added: “There is a bit of a buzz around training because the lads are confident and it does bring everyone together. Winning is a habit and we have to start getting into it for a change.”

TYRONE (SF v Derry): J Curran; A McCrory, C Clarke, PJ Quinn; C McCarron, P Harte, D McCaul; M Murphy; A Cassidy; Mattie Donnelly, Mark Donnelly, R McNabb; O Mulligan, M Penrose, S O'Neill.

CORK (SF v Down): A Quirke; R Carey, M Shields, E Cadogan; N O’Leary, G Canty, P Kissane; A O’Connor, P O’Neill; F Goold, M Collins, C O’Driscoll; C O’Neill, D O’Connor, F Lynch.

LIMERICK (SF v London): B Scanlon; D Quaide, J McCarthy, L O’Dwyer; J Riordan, B Fitzpatrick, P Ranahan; S Lucey, S Buckley; D Treacy, E O’Connor, J Cooke; G Collins, J O'Meara, I Ryan.

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